February 08, 2023
PHOENIX — For the past two decades, the Eagles have been consistently one of the NFL's best teams because of how much they invest in the trenches. Now on to their third Super Bowl appearance in that timeframe, the Eagles once again have an offensive line featuring multiple Pro Bowlers carrying the team deep into the postseason.
The Birds have the league's top offensive line this year with Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo and Lane Johnson at the top of the depth chart. That's a whole lot of brute force ready to inflict pain on opponents.
The Eagles' 2017 Super Bowl run was aided by yet another top-flight o-line. You don't score 79 points across the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl without some legit muscle up front dominating opponents. Kelce and Johnson anchored that line as well. The Hall of Fame-caliber duo were both First-Team All-Pro selections that year, as they were this season. That line also featured Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle filling in for an injured Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski at left tackle and three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks, who laughably never made an All-Pro team in his career.
How do those lines stack up against each other?
"Kelce and I are the only guys left," Johnson said to reporters on Tuesday during Super Bowl media festivities when asked about the differences between the two units. "It's hard to replace Brooks. Brandon Brooks is one of the best guards, the best guard, I've ever played next to along with Isaac. Just different guys. Big V is in Detroit now playing guard. Jordan's over there playing left tackle, Landon. I just feel like maybe this line is a little bit heavier across the board, our average is a little bit bigger than our 2017 line."
Let's check Lane's math on that one.
Here are each units' player measurements via Pro Football Reference:
The 2017 o-line averages out to 317 lbs. The 2022 o-line averages out to 325 lbs. Mailata makes a hell of a difference there.
So, the 2022 line is a little more beefed up, but which line was better?
"Oh, man," Kelce said when asked to compare the two units on Tuesday. "We've had a great offensive line here for a long time. We have a great offensive line this year. Obviously, me and Lane are still here. Isaac is now back in the starting role. 2017 year, man. If Jason Peters wouldn't have got hurt, with him and Lane on the bookends, Brandon Brooks at right guard, me at center. That was a pretty darn good offensive line, not gonna lie.
"JP getting hurt, Vaitai went in and did his job. We won the Super Bowl with him, and he's gone on to have an incredible career. I love Big V. That's a tough one to answer if I'm being honest. We're a really good offensive line this year. We were a really good offensive line that year."
I agree with Kelce about Vaitai. Plopping in a second-year, fifth-round pick for a guy who's going to have a bust in Canton one day isn't supposed to be as seamless as it was. If a different backup was protecting Nick Foles' blindside during that magical playoff run, the Eagles aren't putting up 41 points against Bill Belichick's defense.
"I think we might be better this year," Kelce continued. "I get better every year mentally. [Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] gets better every year mentally. Every year, he says he's a better coach than he was the year before, so I think we've learned so many things since that year. So if those teams played each other, with the same knowledge and framework, I think this team would probably win, but that team was a talented team and that offensive line was really very, very talented."
I lean 2022 as well. Johnson and Kelce were the best players at their respective positions in each of these seasons, so they cancel their other selves out. Dickerson made a Pro Bowl team in his second year in 2022, but Brooks was the best guard in football during his peak. I would, however, go with Seumalo over Wisniewski and Mailata over Big V. The advantage goes to the 2022 line.
Jeff Stoutland wins either way, right? The graduates of Stoutland University pulled a 4.0 yet again.
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